We all have watched a nature channel on TV. The nature channel will show an animal; then go into the differences of the male and female of that species. The nature channel shows how the male in the species will look like this, and behave like this, and the female will look like this, and behave like this. Rarely are these differences trivial. As much as we hold ourselves above or different than other animals – we are animals.
Males and females are different not only physically but are wired to process life very differently. This is such a fundamental truth. Yet much of the suffering in our relationships comes down to not recognizing or knowing what this differences are. We weren’t taught about these differences in school and our parents may not have had these distinctions. Growing up we may get a sense that males and females are different yet dismiss these differences as not of fundamental importance outside of sexual attraction.
Knowing that men and women are wired differently is crucial to understanding and effectively relating with the opposite sex. For the most part, we weren’t trained to notice or take into account these differences when dealing with the opposite sex. These differences can cause so many problems. Many arguments and hurt feelings in our relationships stem from not understand how wired. Some major miscommunications between men and women are not personal; they are based in our biology.
Let’s Start with the Brain
Let’s look at the human brain. The brain is divided in half, a right and left hemisphere. The right hemisphere does a different job than the left. The right hemisphere deals more with visual activities and plays a role in putting things together. For example, it takes visual information, puts it together, and says “I recognize that–that’s a chair,” or “that’s a car” or “that’s a house.” It organizes or groups information together.
The left hemisphere tends to be more analytical; it analyzes information collected by the right. It takes information from the right hemisphere and applies language to it. The right hemisphere “sees” a house, but the left hemisphere says, “That is my house.”
The right side of the brain tends to deal with creativity, imagination, art, big picture thinking, intuition, and emotional connections. The left side of the brain processes details, works in linear thinking, reasoning, writing, numbers and speech. We obviously need both sides of our brains to be able to live fully. (This is of course a very simplistic description of how the brain works.)
The point here is that men and woman have different parts of their brain more readily available. This is one of the reasons that men and women relate and respond to life very differently.
The structure that connects the two sides of our brain is called the corpus callosum. According to tests on the human brain, the corpus collasium is much thicker in men’s brains than women’s; keeping the two hemosphere’s more separate. This thickness allows for a greater separation of the right and left hemispheres; with the left brain more actively available to the male species. Ok, so what?
Men have an easier time myopically focusing. They can get into the left brain’s analyzing and dealing with details and not be distracted by the right brain feeding emotional interpretations to what is going on.
Women on the other hand tend to have a thinner corpuis callosum. They tend to access information from both sides of the brain at the same time. Women tend to be get intuitive flashes (right brain information – information that is not linear or logical) and be distracted by things in their visual field. They tend to get pulled to interact with everything that comes into their awareness.
I expect that you neuro scientists out there have now stopped reading and are probably hyper ventilating. This is obviously an over simplification of how the brain works and a generalization of males and females. This article is meant to point to some of the differences in how men and women process information and not meant to be a scientific manuel. I continue…
Not only do we have two sides to our brain that process information very differently, we have a higher and lower part of our brain. The lower part of our brain is called the cerebellum or little brain. The cerebellum deals with body movement, survival, habits, instinct, and lower animal behaviors.
We have a higher frontal area of the brain called the cerebral cortex. This area of the brain processes how we know what we are doing within our environment (consciousness). This is where we form judgments and initiate activity in response to our environment. This area controls our emotional response and expressive language.
Scientist say we are 21 years of age before this area is fully developed. This explains a lot when it comes to your teenager. When you ask your teenager, “What were you thinking?” don’t be surprised by their response. Whatever they were thinking, it was without a fully developed cerebral cortex.
Let’s go back to the cerebellum and instinct. Instinct is an automatic way that animals (humans) respond to their environment. Instinct is located in the cerebellum, the lower brain area, the area closer to the brain stem and spinal cord. It is a basic animal response mechanism to the environment, automatic, with no higher cerebral cortex thinking, this is where our hard wired responses to our environment happens.
Our cerebellum, our animalistic brain, runs the show for many years as we are developing our higher brain functions. Even when our cerebral cortex is finally developed we are never fully free of our animal brain. We can modify how we respond, increase the time that we take to respond, and expand beyond responding to our animal instincts. We will never be completely free of our animal, instinctual impulses. This is important to remember especially when you are dealing with the opposite sex.
Let’s look at the evolution of the male and female human. My goal here is for you to see how evolution has impacted human’s wiring. This history will provide you with some understanding of the differences between males and females and help you understand the opposite sex better.
Let’s look at the basic way humans learned to respond to their world, and how through time men and women developed differently.
Until about 10,000 years ago humans were hunter/gathers. Men were the hunters; and woman were gathers. Men having more upper body strength, and being bigger and stronger than women, could fight with the animal and be more successful as a hunter. Women would not have made good hunters. If they were pregnant, they would have had trouble running after the animal. If they had a baby on their hip and the baby cried or made noise, the baby would scare the animal away.
Ok so what why is any of this important?
Man’s Evolution from Hunters
Over time men’s left side of the brain (linear thinking, going after goals, spacial relationships) became dominate. Most men have better spacial relationship than women. (Of course not all men and not all women – this is a gross generalization). Men ususally find it easier to read maps and put things together.
Men’s brains also developed along the lines of individual personal achievement. Man over beast = man conquers his world. As a good hunter he earned recognition and a special place in the tribe. Being a good hunter brought him clout. Through history clout and the ability to conquer has continued to be a motivating factor for males.
Men as hunters developed their brain to be single minded and focused. The animal would get away if the hunter allowed himself to be distracted. The hunter learned to FOCUS and not get distracted. Men who got easily distracted failed as hunters and those genes were eventually weened out of the gene pool.
Women when your man, be it your teenager or husband, is focused on something – his computer, the TV, playing a video game, or working on his car– he is single focused. He is not free to focus on you. YOU = a distraction.
Distractions can be a source of upset for men. If he is distracted, he loses. From history, the deer just got away. This does not mean that he does not care about you or he doesn’t love you or doesn’t want to give you what you want. The first primal instinct is to stay focused on what his attention was on originally. Men can really have a hard time shifting their focus. (left brain – liner – single focus – goal oriented)
A woman could feel hurt thinking that her man was ignoring her. Given that men are wired to single focus he more than likely doesn’t even register that she is there. Ignoring her would mean that he had to focus on two things at once.
If she does get his attention, he may get angry that she interrupted his concentration. When a woman doesn’t take into account how her man is wired, she can get her feelings hurt or think that he is reacting outrageously. “Why get so angry?” she may fume. After all, women are often doing more than one thing at a time. They tend to deal with many things at the same time – multitasking. Women just don’t understand how a man can get so upset with being interrupted. “What is the big deal?” “I get distracted all of the time,” she will think.
Differences in our animal instinctual brain can be traced back to our ancestry. Men as hunters had to focus their attention and not get distracted in order to be a good hunter. Non focused attention or being distracted would mean that the animal got away. No animal = no dinner.
So what is a woman to do. First, recognize that your man is wired to be myopic in his focus – interruptions can cause upsets. Be respectful of this tendency to be myopically focused and look for a good time to interrupt. If he gets upset by being interrupted, don’t take it personally.
We are not stuck in our ancestral way of being as humans however it is useful to take into account that this is a basic way that we are wired. The way we process information has been developing over thousands of years. If you think that you are going to change your spouses wiring in this lifetime you may be disappointed.
Woman’s Evolution from Gatherers
Women evolved from the gatherer linage. Shopping, shopping, shopping – this explains shopping. Most women love to wander in a store. “Oh look at this.” “Does this come in another color?” She remembered where she saw those shoes that were going on sale; just like she remembered when the berries were going to be ripe in the meadow.
Men from the hunter linage shop very differently. If they need a pair of shoes, they go straight to the shoe department to get what they are looking for. They go hunting for the shoes. For the most part not distracted by pants, shirts or coats on sale. A woman will go to the store in a gathering mode, see what catches her attention and end up collecting all sorts of items on sale. The gatherer – gathering and the hunter – hunting. This explains a lot doesn’t it?
Woman as gatherers evolved how they paid attention to their environment very differently than the hunter. The hunter being on the offensive learned to focus and pursue. Women as gatherer diffused their awareness to take in the whole environment more from a defensive position. They had to diffuse their awareness so they could pay attention to all of the things in the meadow – what was ripe, where was that tree with the apples located, where was my child or children, were there any critters in the meadow to look out for, etc. Single focusing for a woman as a gather would be a serious problem. She could lose her child as she was picking berries, or miss an animal that she needed to be aware of. This would be extremely dangerous; even a small animal bite could cause an infection and death.
Today her meadow could be her house. As a woman moves through her house she will gather, multitask and pay attention to all sorts of things. She will gather up the shoes her child left in the hallway as she grabs the chicken out of the freezer, set the table and do the laundry. She calls to her kids to turn off the TV as she gathers things together to make dinner, on and on she goes till she falls asleep.
Women tend to be so pulled by their environment that they can forget that they have needs. They can fall into bed and be resentful that their man is sound asleep while they have been doing a million things. This way of being can lead to a woman feeling ignored, unappreciated and resentful.
When a man wants his woman’s attention he could feel that she is distracted and not present for him as she whirls around the house. For a single focused animal this can be unnerving. He may start to feel ignored, unappreciated and resentful as she multitasks. Her multitasking could lead to his hurt feelings. He would like her undivided attention. A woman may not realize how her multitasking is upsetting for a man’s single focused way of being.
So, men when your woman is multitasking and not giving you her undivided attention it does not mean that she does not care about you. Women are wired to move their attention around and not be single focused. Literally the environment calls them; it pulls their attention in many different directions. Woman can have a very difficult time focusing on just one thing at a time.
This difference, male’s tendency to be single focus with his attention and female’s tendency to be multitasking with her attention, can cause upsets in the relationship. This is why it is so important to understand the difference in the wiring of males and females and yup we are animals!